BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
When Lloyd Price learned in June of Darnell Williams' serious knee injury, the Xavier freshman knew what that meant: He was going to be counted on immediately.
Freshman Lloyd Price.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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"I thought, 'This is the time to step up,''' Price said. "I was working on my game, but from that point on, I worked on my game twice as hard, because I really wanted to come in and play.''
Xavier fans get their first
substantial look at Price tonight in the Musketeers' first exhibition game, against BC Danone Honved from Hungary.
Price is the highest-rated recruit ever to come to Xavier. Athlon Sports magazine lists him as the 11th-best freshman in the country. The Sporting News ranks Price as the No. 17 freshman.
He is aware of the accolades.
"I don't want people to look for me to do this and do that,'' Price said. "I intend on showing up every night. I expect myself to continue doing as I've been. I play hard every game. I expect to get better in every part of my game, and I think that's happening.''
Price, who was selected to the preseason Atlantic 10 all-rookie team, may or may not start for Xavier tonight. In the long run, he may fill the sixth man role this season.
One of the reasons Price chose to come to Xavier was because he wouldn't be expected to be a savior and could learn and improve at his own pace.
"He doesn't read his clippings,'' assistant coach Jeff Battle said. "He just wants to be the best player he can be.
"Working with him has been great because you don't have to drag him into the gym. You don't have to tell him to stay and shoot extra. The best thing about him is he's hungry.''
One thing Price does not lack is confidence.
He talks opening about wanting to win every game and go to the Final Four. He talks mostly of team goals, and has the reputation as the kind of player who will help the team win any way he can.
At 6-foot-5, he can play shooting guard or small forward. He handles the ball well in the open court, drives to the basket perhaps better than any other Musketeer, is improving his outside shooting by the day, and oh, how he can jump.
"When I talk about this kid, it's tough for me not to smile and get excited, because he has all the tools,'' Battle said. "He has long arms, he's athletic, he can jump to the moon. ... Once he gets a perimeter game, he can be very, very special.''
Said Posey: "He will help us in different ways. He's very confident, and that's what you like. As a player, you never want to doubt yourself. When I came here, I was a lot more hesitant about a lot of things.''
Price brings more than talent to the Musketeers.
He has an infectious personality, enthusiasm, a love for basketball and a sense of humor that keeps his teammates laughing and/or rolling their eyes.
"This is the way I am,'' Price said. "I like to play, I like to compete, I like to talk. I'm having a lot of fun. You've gotta love it to come and condition and lift weights and do individual workouts.''
"He's just very loose,'' senior Gary Lumpkin said. "He's always joking, and he always has something to say to Posey (who mostly guards Price in practice) ... It's a guy like that who might give us that spark.''
Price, a Wilmington, Del., native who played last season at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., is the third player from Delaware on the team, joining Lumpkin and Lenny
Brown. He fit in even during his recruiting visit a year ago, when he was convinced he wanted to attend Xavier.
As he watched the Musketeers practice, Price was antsy to join them.
"If you spend enough time around him, he's the kind of kid you want to just put your arms around,'' Battle said. "He likes the fact that people like him, and he really cares about people. You want to be around him, and that's good.
"He's come in with a lot of accolades, but you would never know that the way he handles himself. He just wants to fit in.''
Skip Prosser said Price has been stereotyped as a great athlete who can run and jump, but the Xavier coach said the freshman also has good basketball skills.
"And he's an even better person than he is a player,'' Prosser said. "I think the people at Xavier are really going to take to him.''
It has been a challenging first few weeks of practice for the much-heralded newcomer.
While his talent at times is evident, he has -- like all the new players -- struggled in learning where to be on the court and how to transition from one play to another as quickly as Xavier would like.
Also, being hounded by a defender like Posey can make for a long day.
Price is admittedly thinking a lot on the court. He is not always able to just play and let his instincts take over.
Of course, just when you think that, he'll come flying in from the wing, the ball held up high, as he soars over his teammates and the rim while he slams in a dunk.
"I'm starting to adapt to the system now,'' Price said. "At first, it was killing me. Now I know mostly all the plays. It was real hard because they're throwing somewhat a lot at us, and you've got to pick it up and run with it.''
It's time for him to run.
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